It’s time for another Pitch Wars Success Story! These make us so happy! Please join us in congratulating and celebrating Jessica Lewis and her mentor, Brittney Morris! Jessica signed with Holly Root at Root Literary. We’re so excited for them!
Jessica, tell us about the revision process during Pitch Wars.
It wasn’t easy!! I had a developmental edit, then a smaller one, and finally line edits. It was tough and I cried (a lot lol) but my book is so much better for it!
Please tell us about The Call. We’d love as many juicy details as you’d like to share (e.g. how they contacted you, how you responded, celebrations, emotions, how long you had to wait, anything you’d like to share)!
It was incredible! Holly asked if we could talk on a Tuesday, two weeks after the showcase. She called on the following Friday, and she and I talked for an hour and a half! I felt at ease with Holly right away and she was so gracious about my anxiety and millions of questions. But funny fact: she didn’t tell me it was an offer until the end haha! I was sweating, thinking it was an elaborate R&R!
How do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
It really changed my life. I met a group of amazing friends I know I’ll have for life. I whipped my book into shape and I was so proud to query what I created. I learned how to revise efficiently (and also how to cry effectively haha). It was an invaluable experience and I know it changed me from the inside out.
Do you have advice for people thinking about entering Pitch Wars?
Be ready for the work. It is not easy, and many days you’ll feel like giving up. Lean on your friends, and definitely lean on your fellow mentees! You’re all doing something tough and scary, and only your class can really understand what you’re going through. Also, if you struggle with any sort of mental illness, please take care of yourself. I have depression and anxiety, and there were many times the pressure almost overwhelmed me. Take breaks and don’t be afraid to talk to your mentor if you’re feeling bad!
Brittney, tell us about your experience mentoring your mentee.
Being a Pitch Wars Mentor was a great experience! Jessica made edits like a champion, even when deadlines were tight, and even though we didn’t see eye to eye on ALL of the changes, our communication made everything go smoothly!
We’d love to hear about something amazing your mentee did during Pitch Wars.
Without spoiling anything, there were some BIG ideas coming down the pipes from Jessica in a later edit, but I didn’t doubt her for a second! She nailed them all down in the nick of time.
How can mentee hopefuls prepare themselves for Pitch Wars?
Get eyes on your submission materials! Ask friends and family who you know will be honest with you and not afraid to (maybe) hurt your feelings a little in the spirit of making your materials the best they can possibly be before you submit. Also, do your research about which mentors are looking for what. About 1/3 of my submissions were manuscripts that explored topics I wasn’t interested in, or in genres I said I wasn’t looking for. Doing your research puts you SO far ahead of the game!
Let’s hear from agent, Holly Root, with Root Literary.
Holly, what drew you to Jessica’s manuscript?
I absolutely loved the concept–a girl in dire financial straights, pushed by those circumstances into a magic that quickly takes an unexpectedly scary turn–right from the jump. But what absolutely sold me on it was a combination of Jessica’s sharp prose and these absolutely unforgettable characters, who (when they weren’t busy raising the undead) snuggled into my heart forever.
How about some fun questions for Jessica and Brittney?
You only have two hours to finish some edits. Where do you go for quiet time?
Jessica: I’d have to stick to my house! I get too distracted in coffee shops and other public places, so I’d have to beg my grandma to give me some space and hunker down at the kitchen table.
Brittney: Coffee shops. I’m most productive in environments with white noise – talking/background music/espresso machine sounds, etc.
What author would you like to spend the day with? What would you do with them?
Jessica: Honestly I just want to meet all my mentee class in person! We can talk about books and drink and laugh. It would be incredible.
Brittney: Nic Stone and Angie Thomas. Not sure what we’d do all day, but it would probably involve proper mac & cheese and some Grand Theft Auto.
What fictional character would you most like to meet? Why?
Jessica: Sherlock Holmes. I know I’m way too dumb to hang out with him, but I devoured every single short story in middle school. I’ve been obsessed with detectives ever since!
Brittney: You said fictional; you didn’t say books. So I’ll go with Zuko. Because, reasons.
If you could only be in one fandom, which would you choose?
Jessica: This may out me as a major nerd, but Pokemon. I am a day one pokestan and that’s the only franchise I’ll buy everything for. Put a charizard or pikachu in it and I’m buying it lol
What inspired you to start writing?
Jessica: I started out writing fanfiction for my friends in middle school. I loved seeing their faces light up when I produced another (badly written) chapter of the self-insert books. Eventually I transitioned to writing original work, and once my friends liked that too, I was hooked! Writing has always been equal parts soothing and fun for me, and I always remember the feeling of making people happy with something I created.
Brittney: As a kid, I lived in an extremely religious and regimented household. Everything I read, said, played, watched, listened to—down to the way I buttered my toast or laced my shoes—was policed to a stifling and emotionally debilitating degree, with extreme consequences should I make a mistake. Writing was the only thing that was all mine. No one could tell me what to create, or what was right or wrong about what I created, so I fell in love with it.
Share with us your writing process (e.g., routines, tools you use, time of day you write, go to inspiration, etc.).
Jessica: It may be the most millennial thing to say ever, but I write my books on my phone. The habit started in college when I would use my commute to and from campus to jot down ideas. I also text way faster than I type haha. I’ve written three and a half books in the notes section of my phone. After I’m done with each chapter, I email them to myself and transfer them to word. It may be strange, but it works for me!
Brittney: I only write every few months, when I have a burning question that’ll take me at least 50,000 words to answer for myself. Then, I fast draft like an Olympic sprinter, before I can overthink the details and decide the book was a bad idea. I usually write early in the morning, especially right after yoga (I take the earliest class possible, which is usually 5:45). I only drink decaf coffee, tea, and water. (Or mango lassi or boba tea whenever I’m within 100 feet of it).
I am a black author from Alabama. I love writing YA and adult SFF with mixes of horror. My books always have a dog in them and I spend most of my free time sleeping or watching HGTV-type shows (they’re really relaxing!)
Brittney Morris is the author of SLAY. She holds a BA in economics from Boston University because back then, she wanted to be a financial analyst. (She’s now thankful that didn’t happen). She spends her spare time reading, playing indie video games, and enjoying the rain from her house in Philadelphia. She lives with her husband Steven who would rather enjoy the rain from a campsite in the woods because he hasn’t played enough horror games.
Brittney is the founder and former president of the Boston University Creative Writing Club, and she’s a four-time NaNoWriMo winner.